From the Archives — State of Israel
Editor’s Note: The Commentator has decided to reprint two editorials, one published immediately following Israel’s establishment, the other five years later. With 70 years of history already in the past, we hope that these pieces can offer some insight into the early campus conversations surrounding the establishment of the State of Israel, and provide meaning for us today.
Title: From the Archives (May 20, 1948; Volume 13 Issue 11) — State of Israel
Author: William Herskowitz and the Commentator Governing Board of 1947-48
Two thousand years of waiting have at long last ended. The land of Israel, built with the blood, sweat, tears, and lives of countless martyrs who so longed for that land, now exists in the cradle of our religion’s birth. Our persecuted and down-trodden shall flock to Zion to build anew the glory of old. At this solemn moment, we look towards the East with new hope and faith, expressing fervent thanks that our generation has been blessed with the fruition of our forefathers’ prayers.
The value of self-rule in the land of Israel to the inhabitants of the Yishuv and to the D.P.’s is obvious, but it is the worth of a government of our own to the Jews all over the world that really staggers the imagination. The members of our nation who are scattered over the four corners of the earth now have a champion, somebody to speak up for their rights, somebody to protect them against all oppressors, somebody to welcome them when they are not wanted elsewhere. They now have a defendant whose support will be constant, whose backing will not depend on bribes, oil, or politics.
Israel is a country which will teach the democracies what freedom and equality really mean, a people whose bravery will become a byword for courage and fortitude, a nation whose constant insistence that justice rather than expediency become the basis of policy will cause the hypocritical statesmen of other lands to blush with shame. It is a state whose actions will cause the world to regard every Jew with esteem, one which will make the name Jew a proud one and we will be proud of.
It is said that the second commonwealth was destroyed because of dissension among the Jewish people. We cannot allow the third commonwealth to fail because of political differences. The existence of the newly-formed Medinas Yisrael is being threatened by Arab hordes. We must forget party lines in a concerted effort to smash these aggressors. The Jews in America have to do their part by donating their money, their blood, and their services. Do not wait to be called or cajoled. Contact the agencies set up for these purposes and sign up to do your part for our victory.
Title: From the Archives (April 23, 1953; Volume 18 Issue 10) — A Salute to Israel
Author: Irwin Witty and the Commentator Governing Board of 1952-53
Five years have passed since the proclamation of Jewish statehood in Tel-Aviv on a tense Friday afternoon in May of 1948. Since that time, Israel has been on the verge of financial disaster and has gone from one political crisis to another. Yet, it has managed to achieve recognition in the council of nations and withstand the onslaughts of hostile neighbors.
There are those who have succumbed too readily to the notion that the new state is the embodiment of Jewish redemption, and with it we have a panacea to all that ails the Jew in the diaspora. Others have expressed the view that there is nothing in the state which marks it as Jewish, and hence we ought to disclaim it entirely. Those less extreme in their views and more hopeful, have envisioned grandiose plans for the renewal of a “Sanhedrin,” or have looked forward to the ideal of “a state like other states.” We cannot see our way clear to adopt a position at either extreme.
As Yeshiva students, we are bound to see the events of the past half-decade with thankfulness and misgivings. For us, the survival of Israel, with great territorial, economic, political and cultural hardships, will not be affected by human ingenuity alone. The Divine in history was seldom more apparent. The hackneyed expressions of “two-thousand-year-old-dreams-fulfilled” are not made less true by their repeated use.
We must remember that the creation of a sovereign Jewish political unit is not for us the sum total of prophetic promise. We shall continue to await the day when “Torah shall come forth from Zion,” and will continue to regret extremism on both sides which hinders the coming of that day.